Monday, November 18, 2013

The Beach Cottage - Starting the Project Plan

As you saw from the before photos, this place is ready for some updating.  Style and features that were popular in 1943, just seem awkward for modern living.  In a previous post (click here) I talked about the key factors you need to consider in a whole house renovation: safety, energy efficiency, style, function/traffic flow, and economics.  I use that same process in every house, so we started by creating a wish list
As you can see, there are a lot of safety and energy efficiency items that need to be dealt with as priorities - before we can get to the fun stuff like a new kitchen!

And as usual, a huge chunk of our budget will be spent in the basement.  Right now, the basement is nice and dry (albeit, a bit dark and gloomy).  But, I'll never forget the rainy, spring day when our tenants called to say there was water in the basement.  Not just a little puddle, but 3 inches of water at the low end of the room!  We were quickly able to get it under control, but the house is built at the bottom of a 'ledge' rock hill and needs a full waterproofing system installed.  It's an expensive job, but well worth it.  And as previously mentioned, this antique furnace needs to go.  We're pretty excited to install a new high efficiency, gas boiler in its place (and wait till you see how tiny it is!).  Finally, the basement will be the hub for some upgrades to the electrical system - to accommodate all those wonderful electronic gizmos we all love today.

Richard said I look like I'm from 'The Land of the Giants' standing here!
The next big safety focus is upstairs.  There is no headroom.  And that creates a couple of safety issues.  First, with its low pitched ceiling, the 2nd floor doesn't have a single egress window.  Egress windows need to open large enough for a firefighter with a pack on their back to enter the home (in Maine, that's 5.8 sq ft that opens completely).  Many older homes don't have egress windows in each room, but it's odd not to have a single one anywhere on the 2nd floor.  If a fire was to come up the staircase, the windows are too small to climb out of - look how tiny they are!   And with the limited wall space and our heating units, its obvious there isn't space for a window of that size.  So we need to address that.
Awkward dormer in front of the staircase!
Another head room issue is the constant head bumping that takes place.  There is only a narrow area that you can stand upright.  And if you want to get into the dormers, there is some ducking required.  See the odd configuration over the stairwell?

Is it just me?  Or is the lack of an upstairs bathroom is a safety issue?  If I get up in the middle of the night and need to use the bathroom, I'm not really awake enough to navigate a staircase!  So an upstairs bathroom is on the 'must have' list, but it requires more headroom to put it in place.

Equally important, in our cold climate, is getting adequate insulation into the attic.  We punched a hole in the sheetrock ceiling and discovered a wimpy little layer of fiberglass insulation up there.  But with the low pitch roof, there's not much that can be done, without changing the roofline.

6' x 6' dining space…..think cafe table & chairs!
Once the must-do items are covered, then we start looking at the style/function elements.  One of the things that seems really odd about this house is the lack of dining space.  This 6x6' area in the kitchen is all that's available.  Since most dining tables are 42" wide, there's barely enough room for chairs.  So we're thinking about converting one of the downstairs bedrooms into a dining room. There would still be a nice traffic flow and it gives you a place to have the family over for Thanksgiving dinner!

Of course if we eliminate one of the downstairs bedrooms, we need to add one upstairs.  And most families with young children want everyone sleeping on one floor.  So we'd like to have 3 bedrooms upstairs and a bathroom.

Finally, we thought about curb appeal.  The giant 'picture window' makes me a bit crazy.  The center window doesn't open for ventilation and gives the house a very dated look.  And we want a more 'cottage' appearance to the exterior.  We'd like to replace it with double hung windows and add a dormer across the front, with a row of windows.  It's much more cottagey (is that a word?) and we can gain some floor space upstairs.

So, that's the wish list.  Now we have to figure out if we can turn it into reality, without breaking the budget!  Stay tuned!

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  1. I truly love watching what you do to these houses. I'm sure you know this, but you are unusual in that you actually care about STYLE and making each home interesting and unique, not just a cookie cutter flip. I always get inspiration from looking at the before and after photos.

    1. Why thanks so much for the kind words! One of the things I love about this job is that it's different every single time. I'd get so bored with a cookie cutter approach! And with these old houses, you really need to think about what works best for them and potential new owners!


    2. I concur to the above Anonymous. It's always been quite a lot excitement to follow how each of your projects progressed to completion since I found your site. You care about style, AND you care about houses' fundamentals and safety as well. We basically excluded "flips" from our house search (they typically do lipstick on a pig sort of "renovation"), but yours are not flips and if we lived in your neighborhood we definitely would have considered your house.

  2. Meh, I've lived for years sleeping on the second floor with no upstairs bathroom. It's a convenience issue, but certainly not a safety issue.

    1. Ha ha, you're much more agile than I am in the middle of the night!

  3. How much was your budget for the whole renovation? We are looking at buying a home almost identical to this and I am in love everything you have done here. Not including the basement - how much approximately did you spend? Thanks!


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